The Nordic country’s controversial decision to keep most schools open has been proven correct.
In March 2020, as countries around the world shuttered their schools, Sweden chose to keep schools open with compulsory attendance for children under 16. There were a variety of reasons for the decision:
“It is not possible to just close schools without knowing where the children are going — for both social, psychological but also infection prevention reasons,” the Public Health Agency’s general director Johan Carlson said in March. “Many parents with important jobs for society, for example those working in healthcare and welfare would have to stay at home with their children. It is not possible at the moment to replace the parents with the grandparents, which is perhaps otherwise common.”
- Children need to attend schools for both social and psychological reasons, according to the Swedish Public Health Agency’s former general director. WHO Europe wrote in a June 2021 report: “Schools deliver essential functions beyond education that cannot be delivered online, including the opportunity for real-life interactions with peers, which is essential for healthy development. Online teaching therefore remains a suboptimal alternative.”
- There are “infection prevention reasons” for children to keep attending school during the pandemic, because school is a structured environment where hygiene protocols can be implemented and maintained, unlike home environments or informal child care settings. This is why schools remained open during the 1918 flu pandemic in Chicago, New York, and New Haven.
- If schools close, “parents with important jobs for society” will stay home with their kids instead of going to work. With the potential for Swedish hospitals to be overwhelmed by Covid patients, the government wanted to ensure nurses and doctors would be able to go to work.
- Keeping schools open ensured that fragile grandparents — most vulnerable to the virus — wouldn’t be conscripted as child care providers by families with no other options.
In July 2020, Swedish Public Health Agency scientists published a paper with Finnish scientists — mostly ignored by U.S. journalists and policymakers — that found Sweden’s decision to keep schools open did not worsen the country’s public health situation during the…